I started a response to Mark – Helsinki on the article “The Academic Ape: Instinctive aggression and boundary enforcing behaviour in academia” and it prompted me to think of a long forgotten idea about human intelligence which “I” thought worth recording.
We are all used to the idea that humans are “alive” in the normal sense that any animal is alive. We know that all (not dead) animals are “alive”, so are plants and bacteria, but the definition of “life” becomes someone blurred when we start to consider “lifeforms” like virus which are almost entirely DNA. This DNA does not itself “live” instead it does nothing except invade a host and cause it to reproduce the same DNA (with the odd error).
But then, what is DNA, except pure information! Information which we are now just(?) capable of translating into numbers, sending those numbers across the internet and then recreating at the other end as DNA.
But if we take the idea that DNA is a “lifeform”, then why not any other piece of information? What is the criteria of “living”. If it is reproduction, then not only are viruses alive, but by the same definition wouldn’t ideas that we have in our brain be alive? Because they can be transmitted like a virus.
Take for example this very idea that ideas are a living organism. If you then accept that as a result of reading this blog, then like the virus being transmitted over the internet, then this idea has gone through the internet, lodged in your brain and is now resident there and (in the right conditions of a suitable host) can be able to reproduce yet again by being spread to another person.
So, ideas can behave in some senses like a living organism – at least as much alive as any virus.
Mark’s comments were that:
Success is sought within that lifetime, rather than a search for truth which may have to be handed on generation after generation, history shows us scientists who operated in this way, the giants we stand on the shoulders of, giants that are far and few between in modern times.
This is what triggered me to think of this, because here, the ideas that constitute “science” are a body of information, that like human DNA is handed down from generation to generation. Indeed, we may consider the evolution of ideas to be like the recombination of virus information, except in the case of human ideas, the information content can be increased from knowledge/ideas formed from the real world.
So, unlike human DNA this body of information can mutate within a generation generating new ideas, but otherwise the information of “ideas” and the information of DNA in a virus are very similar: both do not live themselves, but instead they require a host organism to do the work to enable them to spread between us.
But now we run into the big problem, because what really constitutes “us” may not be our human bodies, but the thoughts that inhabit our brains. That is to say, the real “us” is not our physical selves, which may be considered an empty receptacle – but instead “us” may be the collection of largely foreign ideas that like an alien species invades our brains and there lives off our bodies using us like a parasitic virus to transmit itself to a new host.
And, unlike our physical bodies which are born and die and there is only one of them, the “dna” of ideas can spread from one person to another much like a virus, so that ideas are a life form largely free from physical constraint.
As such, rather than “scientists … [being] the giants we stand on the shoulders of, giants“, we may need to see the mere human body as an unintelligent receptacle for the ideas of which we call one science. And that in a sense science develops as a separate living entity evolving in a parasitism way using the human body to live.
But if so, intelligence itself may also be largely parasitic, so rather than “science” being a parasite on “us”, what constitutes “us” are the ideas that use our bodies for sustenance. As such “science” may not be a parasite on “us”, but instead the ideas of science and the ideas that constitute what we consider “us”, may be co-existing parasites on our poor dumb thought free bodies.
As such, when science develops, it is not so much because we humans develop ideas, but because ideas gain a fertile human on which they can feed and grow.